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How To Stay Cool During a Heatwave

I arrived in Mexico two days ago and lost power twice in the first 24 hours. The culprit was a faulty electrical box at my campsite, damaged by rust. That’s the price of being by the beach! Before coming here, I was RVing in New Mexico with summer temperatures ranging from the 90s to triple digits. I spent a month of that time completely off-grid. Needless to say, I’ve learned how to stay cool during a heatwave ― even without air conditioning. So, what’s the secret?

1. Position Your Trailer

In most places, you can expect a lot of sunshine from the west and south. When you have the opportunity to park any way you like, use this to your advantage. Consider how you use your trailer, the placement of your windows and doors, and what your add-ons are, then park accordingly.

I like to face the passenger side of my travel trailer to the west because it has an awning that I can use to shade that side. I also like to point either the front or back to the south because neither ends have windows.

2. Let The Breeze In

One of the things I love about TAXA Habitats is the quirky designs with the unconventional placements of doors and windows. Leverage these openings to let fresh air pass through. TAXA Habitats with interior spaces also have vent fans that you can turn on to get the air moving.

Bugs can sometimes make their way inside when you open up the trailer, so consider adding bug screens to your TAXA. If you have a rooftop tent, utilize the built-in screens in your RTT. I also keep bug spray and a bottle of OFF! lotion handy.

3. Use Fans and Portable Air Conditioners

Excepting the Wooly Bear, most TAXA Habitats have optional air conditioning units in one of the windows. But, you need shore power to use these. Do you have solar? Fans are a great way to stay cool during a heatwave. My fan uses only 20 watts, so I can run it off the solar generator even when the batteries are low.

My portable swamp cooler is rated at 98 watts but it uses anywhere from 50 to 75 watts and can also run off the solar generator. It requires quite a bit of water though, so keep that in mind. If you don’t have shore power, an inverter, or good batteries, invest in rechargeable fans and charge them up before leaving home.

4. Dress for the Weather

In a heatwave, dressing for the weather means wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing in natural fibers like cotton. Avoid dark colors, which absorb heat, and opt for white or light-colored clothing, which reflects heat.

You might also want to invest in a sun hat to protect your face and shoulders from UV rays. My mom confirmed that wearing my enormous straw hat successfully kept the sun off her face, shoulders, and back while she pinned the laundry out in the afternoon.

5. Stay Hydrated

This one is a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating: drink lots of fluids, especially water, even if you’re not thirsty. You can become dehydrated without realizing it in hot weather, especially in dry desert areas and at high altitudes. Stay ahead of the game by sipping fluids throughout the day. 

Fruity drinks like sangria, smoothies, and fruit-infused water are refreshing in the heat. I also enjoy a crisp cool Pepsi or Caprisuns. However, nothing beats a glass of water!

6. Avoid Hot Foods

Cooking generates heat, so avoid using your oven or stove as much as possible. Instead, opt for no-cook meals like salads and sandwiches. If you need to cook, do it when it’s cooler, or use your microwave or toaster oven, which generates less heat than your stove. Outdoor grilling is another great option.

Spicy foods are also likely to generate some heat, so stay away from that type of “hot” too. We had some spicy salsa with our lunch while waiting on the electrician in the hot trailer, and boy did we pay for it!

7. Reduce Activity

The more you move around, the hotter you’ll feel. When a heatwave rolls through, it’s probably not the best time to gather wood and build a campfire or go for a hike. Try to find a comfortable spot and stay put. Relax in your hammock with a good book or your Nintendo.

Also, try to give yourself some physical space from others while hanging out. Remember that bodies give off heat, too.

8. Use Rubbing Alcohol or Peppermint Oil

I learned by accident that your skin feels cool to even the lightest breeze after using rubbing alcohol. Some people’s skin might be sensitive to this substance, so test it first, use it sparingly, and see how you feel. Rub or spray some on and sit in front of a fan. Naturally, you want to avoid broken skin.

I also know people who use peppermint oil to achieve the same cooling effect. In fact, having a dinner mint before a glass of water can make it “taste” cooler than it really is. I did this a lot as a child while braving the summer heat in Jamaica.

9. Make a Cold Thermos

While waiting for the electrician, mom, my kitty, and I shared what I call a cold thermos. I keep a metal water bottle that I usually fill with hot water to keep me warm on cold nights.

We found that it works just as great as a cold bottle. We even added ice for good measure. If you don’t have a metal bottle, try putting ice in a small towel or using a cold pack designed for direct contact with the skin.

10. Go for a Drive

The hottest I’ve ever camped in without air conditioning is about 98 degrees, south of Vegas. I was clearing out my storage unit just as a heat wave passed through, and I didn’t have my travel trailer or swamp cooler with me.

I packed my kitty up in the truck with me, and we spent the day running errands in Vegas, with the air keeping us cool. If all else fails and you prefer to stay at camp, hanging out in the truck is not a bad idea.

Final Thoughts on How To Stay Cool During a Heatwave

I prefer the heat over cold weather, but even I have to admit that high temperatures are extremely dangerous. The less accustomed you are to this heat, the greater the danger. Always check the temperatures of places you plan to visit and plan accordingly. Also, if you travel with pets, like I do, don’t forget to include Fido and Mister Whiskers in your plans to stay cool during a heatwave. Remember that their heat tolerance might not be the same as yours.

Happy travels!